The Benefits of Dual Enrollment / Dual Credit Courses

Savvas Insights Team

What is dual enrollment? Discover the benefits of dual enrollment.

High school educators can agree that their primary goal is to watch their students graduate and move on to a successful college experience and a fulfilling career. Yet, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 43 percent of high school completers immediately enrolled in a four-year college in 2021. And among those high school graduates who enrolled as college freshmen this year, only one in four will end up graduating in four years, according to a recent report from the Education Data Initiative.

There are many reasons why a student might not consider higher education a reality. It may be because they don't see the value in earning a degree or that they view costs as too much of a barrier. Some students simply aren't ready to decide what career they want to pursue after high school. And then, for those students who do attend college, the transition to and the demands of higher education can be so overwhelming that they end up leaving before earning a degree.

How do we prepare our students better to ensure that more of them are apt to go to college and end up graduating, especially since the U.S. Department of Education experts say that by 2027, 70 percent of jobs will require education or training beyond high school?

For more and more high school educators and administrators one solution stands out — and that’s dual enrollment.

What Is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment is a program where high school students enroll in a college-level course through their high school and receive college credit for their coursework. A dual credit program is a type of dual enrollment program where high school students enroll in a college-level course, but they earn simultaneously high school and college credit for their coursework.

These programs — normally offered to high-achieving students seeking greater academic challenge — have been proven to increase rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, and subsequently earning a college degree, particularly for those who are underachieving and historically underrepresented in higher education, according to findings from the Community College Research Center at the Teachers College, Columbia University.

Dual credit courses also help students develop soft skills needed to successfully navigate college and careers, not to mention the money and time students can save on earning a degree while in high school. They also allow students, in the words of the Columbia researchers, to “try on” the college student role in an authentic college learning experience and view themselves as capable of successfully completing the work.

Yet, with all of these benefits, a report from Unlocking Student Success, an interagency initiative that includes the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce, shows that among the high school class of 2019, only about one-third of white students, about one-quarter of Asian, Native American, and Hispanic students, and nearly a fifth of Black students took one or more dual enrollment courses during their time in high school.

Why aren’t more high school students enrolled in dual credit programs?

It could be because these programs are largely reliant on what is available through local community college programs, which can lead to logistical challenges such as the cost of transportation to and from a local college campus and difficulty fitting the courses into their high school schedules. Other reasons may include the lack of quality coursework, low transferability of credits, shortage of qualified teachers, as well as class size and enrollment caps.

It’s clear that, even with all the benefits of dual enrollment programs, there are still some downsides. This is why educational innovators are bridging those gaps by moving these programs to an online model.

5 Effective Benefits of Dual Enrollment / Dual Credit Programs

The benefit of online dual enrollment / dual credit programs is that they make advanced learning more obtainable for high school students, particularly for those who otherwise would have had limited access to these opportunities. However, before selecting programs to offer your students, be sure to consider these five key elements that make for a more effective learning experience:

  • Expanded Access and Flexibility: Dual enrollment courses that are both asynchronous and online enable students to take college-level courses anywhere in their high school setting with an internet connection, eliminating challenges like transportation issues and scheduling conflicts. This approach can significantly broaden the range of students who can benefit from advanced academic opportunities.
  • Diverse Course Offerings: A diverse catalog of relevant, career-focused online dual enrollment courses not only engages students by catering to a wider range of student interests and career aspirations but also offers unique subjects that might not be available in a typical high school curriculum.
  • Holistic Learning and Assessment: Continual assessment throughout the online course allows students to demonstrate their understanding and mastery over time, which, unlike high-stakes, single-event testing, is more accommodating for different learning styles.
  • Preparation for Future Learning Environments: Dual enrollment courses offered in a virtual environment better prepare students for the increasingly digital world of higher education and technology-based workplaces. Introductory college courses can also help high school students develop essential soft skills, such as self-discipline, time management, digital literacy and professional communication.
  • Real-Time Monitoring and Support: An effective online dual enrollment program allows any high school teacher to support any course, aided by easy-to-use dashboards that provide faculty real-time visibility into student progress. These advanced monitoring tools provide valuable insights into student progress and performance, which will enable timely interventions and personalized support.

Many high school administrators recognize the value of online dual enrollment courses because they prepare their students for the rigor of college while also enabling them to earn college credits — all under the guidance of teachers who know them best and who are able to provide the scaffolds and support they need to grow. These online programs not only provide high-quality, accessible education but also prepare students for the challenges of the modern world. As education shifts towards more innovative and inclusive approaches, these programs stand out as a promising path toward college and career success for future generations.

Transform College and Career Prep at Your School with Outlier

Outlier by Savvas Learning Company offers everything you need to put your students on a path toward their college degree. With a diverse catalog of accredited online courses from the University of Pittsburgh (a top 50 school), students can mix and match courses spanning the humanities, STEM, business, and more with no minimum or maximum enrollment.

Discover the benefits of dual enrollment and how online dual enrollment programs can bridge education gaps.